Local MP John Penrose has expressed his concern over Government plans to electrify the Paddington to Bristol main rail line which could mean a cut in vital commuter services between Weston-super-Mare and Bristol.
The Government is currently assessing the viability of electrifying the Great Western main line. Mr Penrose is a strong supporter of electrification, but he's concerned that if the line to Weston isn't included in the plans then the intercity High Speed Trains (HST) which currently serve the town may no longer be able to reach it as they would be limited to the new electric lines only. The rush hour HSTs are an essential component in reducing overcrowding on Weston's commuter rail services and have made a real difference since they were introduced after extensive lobbying of First Great Western by Mr Penrose and others 18 months ago.
The Weston MP has now written to Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, demanding to know whether Weston will be included in the Government's electrification plans and that the Minister consider the impact of his decision on Weston-super-Mare. He has also sought reassurances that, if Weston's track isn't electrified, steps are taken to preserve and improve current levels of services. He has said that this will be crucial for the future of the town, especially if the Government pushes ahead with its plan to impose 12,000 new houses on the sea-side town which will potentially add to Weston's 20,000 commuters.
John said: "Over the last few years we've managed to make significant progress in introducing more high capacity diesel intercity trains at rush hour to help relieve the overcrowded commuter services.
"But if the main line is electrified and doesn't include the track to Weston, those trains won't be able to reach us because they will only run on the new electric lines. This could mean a massive cut to our current levels of service and would be a giant step backwards. We would return to unacceptable levels of overcrowding and would end up pushing people off the train and back into their cars, adding to the already-overcrowded M5.
"It's crucial that the Government realises the effects that part electrification of the line could have on Weston. That's why I've written to the Minister responsible and urged him to look at the impact of his plans. If the Government decides that electrification is not viable for Weston then they need to ensure that the current service levels are maintained, and must be willing to improve them in future too to relieve the ever increasing congestion on our roads and motorway."